Swiss Theologian and Priest, Roman Catholic Cardinal
Hans Urs von Balthasar
Swiss Theologian and Priest, Roman Catholic Cardinal
The inner reality of love can be recognized only by love.
The Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity.
The work with which we embark on this first volume of a series of theological studies is a work with which the philosophical person does not begin, but rather concludes.
Thus it is necessary to commence from an inescapable duality: the finite is not the infinite.
To be sure, the response of faith to revelation, which God grants to the creature he chooses and moves with his love, occurs in such a way that it is truly the creature that provides the response, with its own nature and its natural powers of love.
Today the people of God thirst for spiritual drink in a world that is ever more secularized and emptied of God. They want to find teachers of silence, of recollection, of prayer; and instead they find busy clerics and often religious who have gotten stuck in post-conciliar confusions and anti-authoritarian disputes, endlessly struggling for their own identity. For this reason, many depart and seek what they have a right to in places where they cannot find it: from teachers of Eastern meditation, who may be able to give them psychological comfort but never the encounter with the loving God of Jesus Christ. Those searching people of God must not allow their sense of what is Catholic to be dulled; instead, they must realize their responsibility, and, in the hour when many pastors fall silent or even fail, the laymen must raise their cry of protest in the name of the complete Creed in which they were baptized.
We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past -- whether he admits it or not -- can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.
But the issue is not only life and death but our existence before God and our being judged by him. All of us were sinners before him and worthy of condemnation.
When everything is blocked off,' I was told by a dear friend who lives in Erfurt, one must try to live in the interstices.' Apparently, the Christians of the Apocalypse, though they did not bear the sign of the beast, had discovered or created such spaces. From islands like these, true culture, Christian culture, may spread across the earth. Many people are athirst for it.
For all his gentleness and humility unto death on the Cross, God does not relinquish his attribute of being judge and consuming fire. Nothing is more majestic than his Passion; even his anxiety is sublime. And God never denies his attributes to those who are his light in the world. They shine like stars in the cosmos, and even their anxiety, if God allows it, bears the marks of their divine destiny.
Wonder—the enthusiastic ardor for the sublimity of being, for its worthiness to be an object of knowledge—promises to become the point of departure for genuine insight only where it has reached the stage in which the subject, overwhelmed by the object, has, as it were, fused into a single point or into nothing… like the movement of hope and love toward God, which is genuine and selfless only where it has assumed the attitude of pure worship of God for his own sake.
If God wishes to reveal the love that he harbors for the world, this love has to be something that the world can recognize, in spite of, or in fact in, its being wholly other.
It is, finally, a word is untimely in three different senses, and bearing it as one's treasure will not win one anyone's favors; one rather risks finding oneself outside everyone's camp... Beauty is the word that shall be our first.
It would be unjust toward children to introduce them to Christian teaching and existence only as little pagans and catechumens, in order to leave it up to them to choose the Faith on their own responsibility at a point in time difficult to determine.
Love alone is credible.
Not longer loved or fostered by religion, beauty is lifted from its face as a mask, and its absence exposes features on that face which threaten to become incomprehensible to man.
Prior to an individual's encounter with the love of God at a particular time in history, however, there has to be another, more fundamental and archetypal encounter, which belongs to the conditions of possibility of the appearance of divine love to man.
The first attempt at a response: there must have been a fall, a decline, and the road to salvation can only be the return of the sensible finite into the intelligible infinite.
Faith means the fundamental response to the love that has offered itself up for me. It thus becomes clear that faith is ordered primarily to the inconceivability of God’s love, which surpasses us and anticipates us. Love alone is credible; nothing else can be believed, and nothing else ought to be believed. This is the achievement, the ‘work’ of faith: to recognize this absolute prius, which nothing else can surpass; to believe that there is such a thing as love, absolute love, and that there is nothing higher or greater than it.
God defines himself as "I am who I am", which also means: My being is such that I shall always be present in every moment of becoming.
What the Father gives is the capacity to be a self, freedom, and thus autonomy, but an autonomy which can be understood only as a surrender of self to the other.
Above all we must not wish to cling to our suffering. Suffering surely deepens us and enhances our person, but we must not desire to become a deeper self than God wills. To suffer no longer can be a beautiful, perhaps the ultimate sacrifice.
To be a child means to owe one's existence to another, and even in our adult life we never quite reach the point where we no longer have to give thanks for being the person we are.
What you are is God's gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.
The One, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, these are what we call the transcendental attributes of Being, because they surpass all the limits of essences and are coextensive with Being.